Police in a New Jersey town say a woman was bound with duct tape and buried alive by a man who offered her a ride so she could buy a new car.
Fatima Pérez, a 41-year-old mother of two, was reported missing on Monday evening, the same day she left her Camden home to buy the car. Her body was found Wednesday in Monroe Township, about 20 miles away, with her mouth and face covered with duct tape. An autopsy determined she died of asphyxiation.
Investigators say Pérez was buried in a shallow grave by her landscaper after he offered to drive her to buy a new car. Landscaper Carlos Alicea-Antonetti, of Camden, and one of his employees, Ramon Ortiz of Pennsauken, told investigators they buried her alive, according to authorities. Pérez had previously employed Alicea-Antonetti.
Both men applied for public defenders at their arraignment, where they were ordered held on $5 million bail each.
Investigators said Alicea-Antonetti, the owner of Villa Coamo Landscaping and General Maintenance, picked up Pérez on Monday in his van to drive her to buy the car. She carried $8,000 for the purchase, according to her family.
According to a probable cause statement, Alicea-Antonetti told police he argued with Pérez and she fell out of his van. He said despite being injured, Pérez got back into the vehicle and was lying in the back when he stopped to pick up Ortiz.
Court papers said Alicea-Antonetti told detectives he and Ortiz bound and blindfolded Pérez before driving to a wooded location where they dug a hole and dumped the woman in it, then poured lime over her and attempted to conceal the ditch by covering it with branches and debris. The suspects told police that Pérez was still alive when they left her.
Detectives tracked the two men down after Pérez's family said she had told them of her car-buying errand.
Police said Alicea-Antonetti had more than $7,000 in cash on him at the time of his arrest.
Based on reporting by The Associated Press.